Friday, August 31, 2012

Feminist Rap Friday: Deconstructing "Bad Bitch"

Lupe Fiasco's song "Bitch Bad" has been out for a couple months, but the video has just been released, which has reopened the floor to criticism.

The song follows two narratives, one of a girl who grows up watching video girls and is conditioned to emulate them herself. The other is a boy who grows up watching his mother sing along to songs about "bad bitches," so he grows up to associate that with power (and his mother). When the two meet later in life, the boy doesn't see the girl as emulating the good parts of "bitch" that he's grown up with, he just sees a BAD bitch.

As many critics have said, it's a really simplistic view of gender and of the construction of the word, "bitch," and ultimately blames women for not respecting themselves.  Akiba Solomon over at Colorlines has a great response in her August 30th article on the subject:

I say this as a black woman who has been called a bitch by men who look like me in the streets; had dudes who look like me throw juice and 40 bottles at me for ignoring their advances; had a man twice my age who looked like me call me a trick-ass ho for daring to hail a cab rather than riding with a stranger; had a classmate who looked like me shove me into a cafeteria conveyor belt because I wasn’t tactful enough when I told him I didn’t want his number; and had another one who looked like me call me an ugly black bitch with no ass just for averting my eyes. That kind of verbal abuse from people you’ve been raised to call “brother” has a cumulative effect. So if Lupe Fiasco or any other black male hip-hop artist takes the time out to say STOP!, I’ll ride for that effort and hope that the fair criticism propels him to another level the next time around. 

I'm not a huge fan of this song, but I think Fiasco is trying to come from a good place, and the subject definitely is prime for more discussion in hip hop. I am conflicted about my own uses of the word "bitch." It is a word that I think, I use too often. Usually it's just plain derogatory, which I know, but yet it still comes out of my mouth. Recently while hanging out with several of my feminist guy friends, I noticed that they unconsciously said "bitch" a lot.
"Ugh, look at that bitch," they would say.
"Yes, that FEMALE CHARACTER is being unpleasant," I would respond.
When asked to clarify my views on the word, I didn't really have a good response. I don't think the word should totally be eradicated from our lexicons but I also couldn't offer clear guidelines on when I thought the word was appropriate and inappropriate.

Honestly, country and hip hop are two genres that I listen to a lot of, but not so much with male artists.  Do you guys have any suggestions for actually feminist rap songs from male artists?

And additionally, do you use the word "bitch?" Why or why not? And do you think that there are appropriate and inappropriate uses of the word?


  1. Hey, I love what you're doing with Feminist Rap Friday. Love the blog in general, but especially this. At Kwantlen University in Vancouver, we just started up a feminist hip hop blog as part of the "Women Organizing Opportunities for Women" group. It's, if you want to check it out.

  2. I was just having a minor argument with some friends of mine about this song. One friend said we should support it because it heading in the right direction, even if it's still a bit problematic. The other friend (and me, more or less) thought we shouldn't have to settle for a patronizing take on gender issues, even if it comes from a genuine place.